|Kim Hyo-joon, right, chairman of the Korean-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and BMW Korea, Industry Minister Sung Yun-mo, center, and Korea International Trade Association Chairman Kim Young-ju pose at COEX in southern Seoul, Tuesday, after signing a memorandum of understanding to strengthen partnerships between Korean and German companies. Courtesy of Korea International Trade Association|
By Jung Min-ho
Strengthening partnerships with Germany's "hidden champions" ― small but highly successful companies in their fields ― could greatly help Korea overcome Japan's export curbs, the leader of the Korean-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KGCCI) said Tuesday.
"Many Germany companies either have the materials Korea urgently needs or are capable of developing them in a short period time," Kim Hyo-joon, chairman of the KGCCI and BMW Korea, said during a speech at a seminar on partnerships between the two countries' businesses.
"Korean and German companies are mutually complementary and, by working together, can create great synergy."
His comments come three months after the Japanese government's decision to restrict the export of some critical technology materials to Korean firms ― an apparent act of retaliation to last year's Korean Supreme Court rulings against Japanese companies on wartime forced labor.
Over the past few decades, Korea and Germany have become key business partners and built strong trust, Kim noted.
"Today, there are 500 German companies in Korea. They have made huge investments here and employ more than 100,000 Koreans. BMW alone has imported car parts worth a total of 34 trillion won ($28.4 billion) from 500 Korean companies," Kim said. "During the 1997 Asian financial crisis, Germany was the only big country that increased ― instead of decreasing ― its investment here, which I believe helped Korea rapidly overcome the crisis."
The 2019 Bloomberg Innovation Index shows that Korea and Germany are the world's most innovative countries, followed by Finland, Switzerland and Israel. The study analyzes dozens of criteria using seven metrics, including concentration of high-tech public companies, research and development spending, and manufacturing capability.
At the event, the KGCCI signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, which promised long-term support.
Industry Minister Sung Yun-mo said parts and materials are the backbone of the manufacturing industry, and Germany's partnership was essential for Korea to become a leader in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
He said his ministry is planning to create an organization next year to systematically support Korean-German business collaboration such as co-developing new technologies.
The collaborative work between Korean company iBULe Photonics and Fraunhofer Society, a German research organization, in developing an ultrasonic sensor for non-destructive testing ― the process of inspecting components or assembled products for defects ― was mentioned as a good example.
Around 150 representatives from government agencies and companies, including Siemens and Merck Group, attended the event.